Orange means green for Garfield Co. |

Orange means green for Garfield Co.

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GARFIELD COUNTY ” Hunting and fishing are big business in Colorado.

Along the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers, it’s easy to spot fishermen nearly year round. And when the air cools and the leaves turn in the fall, hunters from far and wide converge on Garfield County.

It’s pretty obvious why hunters and fishermen are attracted to the area, said Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton. It’s a beautiful area, rich with game and fishing opportunities.

Statewide, hunting and fishing combined bring in more than $1.5 billion each year; in comparison the ski industry brings in approximately $1.7 billion annually. Garfield County sees more than $30 million in direct expenditures, and close to $53 million through indirect expenditures, from hunting and fishing each year, Hampton said.

“Statewide, hunting and fishing rivals the ski industry in terms of tourist dollars for the state,” Hampton said. “Sometimes we go back and forth.”

Hampton said that the DOW issued around 300,000 hunting licenses this year statewide. Of that number, he estimated approximately 15,000 bull-elk over-the-counter licenses issued with another 24,320 cow tags and more than 38,000 deer tags for three hunting areas that converge in Garfield County.

The area covers part of the Grand Mesa units to the south of Rifle, the Piceance units to the northwest and the White River units to the northeast, which is home to the largest elk heard in North America, Hampton said.

“People come here from all over the nation to hunt because of the resources and the abundant wildlife,” Hampton said.

“There is a lot of land out there, and there are six hunting seasons, including four rifle seasons in the fall. So, though a large number of licenses are issued, they are spread out over a large area.”

A 2002 economic impact analysis of hunting in Colorado done by Denver-based BBC Research and Consulting, the most recent study completed, showed hunting alone contributed $340 million in direct revenues statewide. Garfield County receives $7.2 million per year in direct expenditures from Colorado residents who participate in hunting and fishing within the county. Another $20.8 million in revenue comes from nonresident hunters and fishermen who venture to Garfield County, Hampton said.

The report indicated that 20,200 jobs statewide were supported through the hunting and fishing industry. About 690 of those jobs were in Garfield County, Hampton said.

Hunting and fishing numbers have decreased nationwide in the past couple of years, but that is not necessarily the case in western Colorado. Statistics indicate that the number of Colorado residents who participate remains steady, though the state’s population is increasing. That declining percentage gives the impression that hunting and fishing are not robust, but in terms of license sales, the DOW has only seen an increase if anything at all.

“In Colorado the sales stay relatively level,” Hampton said. “We haven’t seen a dramatic increase or decrease. Any increase or decrease in licenses is more due to management of herds by us.”

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